Sober home task force seeks 5-day prescription limit, needle exchange

One day after Gov. Rick Scott announced he would seek a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said he will seek a five-day limit when the Florida Legislature meets in January.

The proposed five-day prescription limit is one of eight proposals addressing sober homes that Aronberg presented during a meeting of the county’s legislative delegation on Wednesday. The delegation is a nonpartisan, county office that serves the 13 members of the Florida Senate and House who represent Palm Beach County in Tallahassee.

Florida lawmakers tasked Aronberg two years ago with investigating corruption in Florida’s drug treatment industry and recommending legislative solutions. Aronberg created the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, which has made 34 arrests in the past year — most stemming from kickbacks paid to sober home operators.

“We’ve got momentum on our side,” Aronberg said. “We’ve made a lot of progress and a lot needs to be done.”

»» Read the Post’s complete coverage of sober homes

Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, who heads the task force, said the proposed five-day cap simply mirrors a cap that lawmakers rejected last year. The task force endorsed it before they knew of Scott’s proposed three-day cap.

The task force’s proposed five-day cap pertains to the first prescription a physician writes for acute pain, the type of pain experienced after surgery or an accident. The bill does not put caps on prescriptions for chronic, long-term pain often experienced by cancer patients.

On Tuesday, Scott unveiled his legislative agenda for combating the opioid epidemic, leading with a three-day cap on pain prescriptions unless strict conditions are met for a seven-day supply. Scott is also proposing reforms to fight unlicensed pain management clinics, require education on responsible opioid prescribing, create opportunities for federal grants and tightening regulations on how the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, also known as the PDMP, should be used.

The database requires health-care professionals to report the name of the doctor, patient and the prescription after a prescription for a controlled substance is filled. The task force proposes requiring doctors and pharmacists to enter data on prescriptions for controlled substances into the PDMP no later than the close of business the following day.

RELATED: Delray, Boynton first in state to set standards for sober homes

Other proposals include:

  • Allowing counties to participate in a needle-exchange pilot program underway at the University of Miami. State money could not be used. However, counties and cities could use tax dollars to pay for the exchanges.

Revise the types of crimes that disqualify recovered addicts from working in licensed treatment centers. Currently, crimes such as patient brokering, racketeering and money laundering do not disqualify a job candidate, while low-level drug crimes committed years earlier do.

  • Clarify the exceptions under which an addict in treatment may be referred to or from a sober home.

  • Create a system by which addicts can receive a housing voucher to pay for rent at certified sober homes.

  • Prohibit treatment providers from entering into contracts for recovery support services, such as life skills and vocational training, with people or companies that also provide marketing services.
  • Regulate and license so-called consultants who obtain licenses for prospective treatment providers. Some unscrupulous consultants sell “canned” applications and manuals.

  • RELATED: What two south county cities are doing to regulate sober homes

  • Create uniform safety and fire codes for sober homes.
  • The call for limits on prescription pain killers won more support on Tuesday when Stephen J. Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the organization endorsed a seven-day limit on prescriptions for acute pain.

    “We are taking this step because we believe the worsening opioid epidemic demands additional solutions,” Ubl said in the press release. “Too often, individuals receive a 30-day supply of opioid medicines for minor treatments or short-term pain. Overprescribing and dispensing can lead to patients taking opioids longer than necessary or to excess pills falling into the wrong hands.”

    CVS — one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — announced Friday that it will limit opioid prescriptions to seven days for certain conditions. The restriction will apply to patients who are new to pain therapy. CVS will also limit the daily dosage of pain pills based on their strength and will require the use of quick-release painkillers before extended-release opioids are dispensed.

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